Child: We have to have rules and laws and the police and judges to stop grow-ups from being naughty, don’t we?

Adult: When someone breaks the rules or the law, do they need help or punishment?

I think both.

Just like children who are called naughty, grown-ups do what they do because their thoughts and feelings tell them to do it.

Why don’t their thoughts tell them to be good?

Their thoughts are influenced by their emotions and based on their beliefs.

Where did their beliefs come from?

Their beliefs are based on what they were taught to think and what they discovered themselves—they’re what they think is true.

Are the bad ones grown-up versions of naughty?

If there’s no such thing as naughty for children, then grown-ups can’t be naughty, either.

But what about the bad grown-ups, and the ones that are really evil?

They might need to go away somewhere—not to be punished, but so the rest of us can be safe and they can receive help.

But the naughty grown-ups have to go to prison so they know they did wrong, and then they can be sorry.

Perhaps the naughty step and prison do the same thing: cause negative feelings and destructive thoughts.So what can we do to make people stop doing bad things?

We can try to understand why they do them, and then help them change.

So they won’t hurt others anymore.

Then those who have changed and are sorry can go home.

But what about the ones that can’t change, or aren’t sorry?

They can’t go free, as they might hurt someone again.

Why are there such bad people in the world?

Perhaps the supposedly bad or evil people are here in the world to help us see that really, no one is good or bad or right or wrong.

Well, that doesn’t make sense at all.

And it doesn’t help when we judge, label and punish others.

So what should we do?

We need to cause no harm to those that harm, because it causes them to harm.

But we can’t let them hurt people.

Perhaps, in one way or another, we’ve all caused harm to others and we’ve all been harmed by others.

So everyone is naughty and everyone gets hurt by naughty people?

When we see that sometimes we hurt and sometimes we’re hurt, then we can stop causing harm ourselves and help others to do the same.

So then no one is naughty?

No one ever was. It was just people following their thoughts and beliefs all along.

So what will happen when there really is no such thing as naughty?

People will stop saying “I’m right and you’re wrong,” and “I’m a good person and they’re a bad person.”

And this child is naughty and that child is not—don’t forget that!

We can start by teaching children that there’s no such thing as naughty.

But some grown-ups aren’t so nice and won’t do it.

We aren’t really so different.

How are we not different?

We all want the same things, like love, and to be healthy and happy, and to feel calm and have peaceful minds.

So we’re all the same in those ways.

Yes, and what’s more, we’re all part of one perfect thing.

What is this one perfect thing?

Everything.

Everything?

Nothing and no one is separate from everything, so we’re all part of one big thing called everything, which is perfect just the way it is.

Obviously, there are things in the world that are definitely not perfect.

Perhaps they’re perfectly imperfect, and somehow, everything fits together like a giant jigsaw puzzle that keeps moving and changing and growing.

So everything is part of everything?

All that ever was, all there is now and all that is going to be.

So I’m a puzzle piece?

You’re a most important piece.

Why?

Because without you, something very important would be missing and then there couldn’t be—wouldn’t be—everything.Illustration of a bunch of things in the world on top of the Earth, with a question mark included - There's no such thing as naughtySo if I wasn’t here, then there would be something missing: Me!

You’re supposed to be here because you’re here, and we can’t have everything, with nothing missing, without you.

Or you.

That’s right, so can you see just how important we all are?

Yes, I can. Everyone is very important, including me.

We all have our place here and we’re all connected.

But what about dead people? They’re missing.

The past has shaped how things are, so those that are no longer here have influenced how things are now.

So those that aren’t here anymore are still part of what goes on now?

Just as what we do now will influence what happens in the future.

So the past, the present and the future are all part of everything.

What people will think and do in the future depends on what we think and do now.

So will people in the future believe in naughty?

It all depends on what we think now.

So if we change what we think now, this will change the future?

Only when we truly believe our new thinking.

How do we do that?

We just answer the “naughty” question truthfully.

What is the naughty question?

Is there such a thing as naughty?

No, naughty is just a thought, isn’t it?

A thought that has turned into a belief.

So do people just have to stop thinking it’s true?

Yes, just like we know there really is no such thing as naughty.

Well, that’s two of us, so have we changed the future yet?

We’ve made change possible.

But we have to wait and see, right?

That’s right, and two can become three and three can become four.

So it can go on and on.

Until it can’t be stopped, and before we know it, everyone will have realized that there’s no such thing as naughty.

I hope it goes on and on until there’s no more naughty left anywhere in the whole wide world, and that it lasts forever and ever.

A world of no more naughty. That would make the perfectly imperfect everything just perfect!

This piece is the eighth in a nine-part series of fiction stories that critically examines the use of the word “naughty”—by parents and other authority figures—to describe children who aren’t acting as the authority figures wish.

Check back here for the final part, which will be published in July.

Read the previous story in the series, THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS NAUGHTY: No more naughty!»

Author bio:

Dr. Mike Larcombe is a Clinical Psychologist working in the U.K. “There’s No Such Thing as Naughty” was written some years ago, and is a fictionalized account of some genuine conversations about “naughty” he had with young children.
Illustrator bio:

Amy O’Neil graduated from University of the Arts London. She spends her time writing fiction, drawing and travelling with her partner and son. She currently lives in Latvia, where she’s finishing her first novel. If you’d like to get in touch with Amy, you can email her at amygrace2@gmail.com.